To help plan your next trip to Texas Hill Country, we asked Jason Carter, Guest Services Manager at Four Seasons Hotel Austin, to share tips for experiencing the very best of Austin – from the top spots for fine dining and shopping to where to embrace the great outdoors.
The best barbecue
Identifying the best barbecue in Texas has caused many a Capitol filibuster. The Austin area sizzles with candidates, from the lively Lamberts downtown (try the brown-sugar-and-coffee-rubbed natural brisket with a side of jicama, carrot and cilantro slaw) and east-side favourite Franklin Barbecue, called “the best barbecue in America” by Bon Appetit’s Andrew Knowlton, to nearby small-town joints that serve on butcher paper, such as Kreuz Market in Lockhart (no-sauce spare ribs and jalapeño cheese sausage with a side of German potato salad) and Cooper’s Old Time Pit Bar-B-Que in Llano (known for its lean brisket and cabrito).
Killer Mexican food
Like most of Texas, Austin has killer Mexican food. For classic Tex-Mex, the spicy grilled steaks and enchiladas at Matt’s Famous El Rancho downtown have been local favourites since 1952. Curra’s Grill in south Austin calls itself “The Mother of all Mex,” and its monster homemade tamales are all the convincing you’ll need.
Live music and dancing
Austin has more live musicians—mainly alternative, blues and jazz—in more local venues than anywhere else in the U.S. Antone’s nightclub has packed in talent since the summer of 1975, helping launch the career of such Texas artists as Stevie Ray Vaughan, Jimmie Vaughan, The Fabulous Thunderbirds and Los Lonely Boys.
For a traditional country-and-western dance experience that dates back to Bob Wills and The Texas Playboys, Broken Spoke on Lamar is just the ticket—you can even sign up for the two-step lesson. Things get a bit grittier at the Continental Club, a South Congress venue that evokes rock-and-roll memories of old Cadillacs and Fender guitars.
Austin style is as eclectic as its music. The city boasts its Lone Star share of Western wear and cowboy boots—Allens Boots is famous for traditional cowboy attire, while Heritage Boot features flashier interpretations. Estilo on 2nd Street offers some of the city’s hippest fashions. The South Congress zone, or “SoCo,” is home to a raft of specialty shops that offer everything from Bohemian clothing and retro furniture to offbeat toys and outlandish costumes.
One of the best ways to appreciate the city’s beauty and layout is by climbing the 100 steps to the top of Mount Bonnell, where you’ll find a sweeping panorama. The heart of Austin’s outdoor soul is Zilker Botanical Garden and the adjacent Barton Springs Pool, both in Zilker Park southwest of downtown. The gardens are spectacular, and the nation’s largest natural urban swimming pool maintains an invigorating 68–72ºF (20–22ºC) water temperature. But the best leg-stretcher near the Hotel is just out the back door, one of the most scenic urban trails in the country, around Lady Bird Lake.
The story of Texas
The Bullock Texas State History Museum provides insight into Texas politics, culture and that Lone Star essence. With three floors of interactive exhibits and the Spirit of Texas Theatre, the museum immerses visitors in “the Story of Texas,” from the fury of the 1900 Galveston hurricane to a gusher from an East Texas oil derrick.